Sunday, December 10, 2017
Parenting & Relationships

From This Day: 20 years later, pen pals become life partners

TAMPA — Of course, Kari Goetz's first email went to Crawford Long. They'd been corresponding the old-fashioned way — stamps and envelopes — since they were 17. Electronic mail speeded up their postal friendship; still 20 years passed before the pen pals met again in person.

Witty and irreverent observations, "high banter,'' Crawford said, kept their letters coming long after they met at a YMCA Youth in Government Conference on National Affairs in North Carolina in 1992. Crawford had driven 90 minutes from his home in Greenville, S.C. Kari took a 14-hour bus ride from Fort Myers.

Everyone departed with new ideas, educated opinions and an address directory. Kari and Crawford took home an indelible memory of him playing guitar and her singing along. From that brief encounter followed two decades as each other's closest confidant.

"We grew up with each other," Kari said, "just not together."

Occasionally they sent silly gifts. Sometimes the phone would ring. The mid 1990s brought email, followed by instant messages, texts, Facebook, Twitter and Skype.

Kari described nerve-wracking auditions during the five years she pursued an acting career in Los Angeles. Back in Florida, she directed marketing for the Tampa Chamber of Commerce, managed audience development at Straz Center for the Performing Arts and named herself Chief Squirrel at Jobsite, its resident theater.

When Crawford's dot.com dream didn't come true, the software developer regaled Kari with law school tribulations from the University of South Carolina. His New Year's Eve text greeting always arrived at midnight. But on Jan. 1, 2012, he added: Will this be the year we see each other?

"We'd better,'' replied Kari, ever the smart-aleck, "… the Mayans say the world is ending." A few days later, Crawford emailed his flight information.

"I've never been so nervous in my life," he said. "I've climbed dangerous cliffs, gone through traumatic health crises, but never been so unsure than getting on that airport tram."

"Worst case of stage fright in my life," injects Kari, leading lady of scores of plays.

First a hug. Five seconds later, a kiss. Thus began a year of constant travel between her home in Seminole Heights and his in Atlanta. How convenient that Kari was named director of marketing at Tampa International Airport in May 2012.

There was no formal engagement. "We just knew there would be a wedding some day," she said, just as they knew it would involve good friends and Carolina barbecue. Bibs would be provided; gifts would be politely discouraged.

Merging the stuff of two households was hard enough, not to mention blending pets — his cat and her two dogs and two cats. Instead, guests could donate to their matchmaker, the YMCA youth in government program, or Equality Florida, "so the next generation of Crawfords and Karis, Karis and Karis and Crawfords and Crawfords can meet," she said.

On April 20, they filled the Cedar House in Clearwater. Friends officiated — Kari's college pal, Broadway producer John Pinckard, and Crawford's YMCA mentor, Mary Bledsoe. Pinckard began with a reading from the movie The Princess Bride; Bledsoe followed with the Massachusetts Supreme Court's landmark decision, Goodridge v. the Boston Department of Public Health, allowing same-sex marriage. They high-fived and called for a coin toss to set the order of the vows.

Crawford went first, promising "to love, honor, respect and usually obey," followed by a pledge to "never give up childish things ... always try to make you laugh... and be proud to have such a remarkable, brilliant, funny, creative and strong woman as my wife."

Kari responded, "I always said that whoever married you would be the luckiest woman in the world. And... I was right."

Amy Scherzer can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3332.

 
Comments

Tell Me About It: Parentsí extreme sheltering feels creepy

Parentsí extreme sheltering feels creepyQ: My daughter, 11, has three friends from school. One girlís parents are generous hosts. "Emma" is an only child and has a pool, fun toys, great snacks.The problem is that Emmaís parents donít let Emma be a gu...
Published: 12/10/17
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of Dec. 11-17

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of Dec. 11-17

Katy Perry: The Teenage Dream songstress roars into Tampaís Amalie Arena on Friday ($45.75-$195.75). amaliearena.com. Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights begins Tuesday, bringing fun celebrations including Hanukkah in the City at the Sundial St. Petersb...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Wild weather expected, 2 boat parades canceled

Wild weather expected, 2 boat parades canceled

Boat parades that were planned tonight in South Pasadena and St. Pete Beach have been canceled because of weather fears.Organizers said they will not be rescheduled. Heavy rain is expected to approach the gulf coast near sunset Friday ahead of a stro...
Published: 12/08/17
Fun and profound Hanukkah celebrations around the Tampa Bay area

Fun and profound Hanukkah celebrations around the Tampa Bay area

It’s time to observe the Festival of Lights, starting at sunset Tuesday and ending Dec. 20. Many congregations seem to be having a great time, because Hanukkah celebrations this year are hilarious. There’s a menorah made of fidget spinne...
Published: 12/08/17
From Hogwarts Castle to your home, digital projectors give a real light show

From Hogwarts Castle to your home, digital projectors give a real light show

At night, Hogwarts Castle is suddenly dusted with snow in steamy Florida. It’s not really snow, but light causing this trick of the eye. Projectors and sophisticated software then send ghosts across the castle towers. A turret spins and turns i...
Published: 12/08/17

Tell Me About It: Self-awareness best way to break bad habit

Self-awareness best way to break bad habitQ: I recently had a friend tell me that I have become arrogant since I entered a new career in which thereís a culture of snobbery and one-upping.I was defensive, and would really have liked to believe she wa...
Published: 12/08/17

Tell Me About It: Exís attempt to make amends falls flat

Exís attempt to make amends falls flatQ: My first love e-mailed me out of the blue, after 10 years, to make amends as part of his AA program. The lengthy e-mail detailed my exís love for me, regrets, and urged me to consider a phone call or FaceTime ...
Published: 12/07/17
Three shades of comedy this week: Game Grumps Live, Harlem Globetrotters, Liberal Redneck comedy tour

Three shades of comedy this week: Game Grumps Live, Harlem Globetrotters, Liberal Redneck comedy tour

VIDEO STARS: Game Grumps LiveYou thought video game players were wasting their time, but these days professional players are packing stadiums and making more money than youíll ever see. They also give us hilarious shows like Game Grumps Live, coming...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17

Tell Me About It: Remarks about food choices grow tiresome

Remarks about food choices grow tiresomeQ: Iím going on vacation soon with my in-laws, siblings-in-laws, and their spouses. Over the last few years, Iíve been working on eating fewer unhealthy foods like bread and dairy, and as a result I feel much b...
Published: 12/06/17
A guide to holiday events at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens and more theme parks

A guide to holiday events at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens and more theme parks

Instead of shoveling snow, Christmas in Florida means celebrating the holiday season in shorts and T-shirts at theme parks and local attractions. Some parks even haul in “snow” for an authentic holiday vibe. While the last two weeks of t...
Published: 12/06/17